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Starfinder Society

Between Chains and Starlight, Version 2.0 (PFRPG) PDF

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This book is a revamp of the first version of Between Chains and Starlight. Factions have been overhauled and further elaborated upon, a list of individual star systems has been included, and four individual planets are described in detail, with maps. Creature entries have been adjusted to be more in line with standard rules for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. A brief ruleset for combat in zero-G and alternate gravity environments is included, and various minor changes are made to assorted rules. Most content from Dragons in Space (and Stuff) has been incorporated into this book, with some alterations, as well as some new additions to the Space Combatants chapter. In addition some of the art has been overhauled, and there are 17 new images, 4 new planetary maps, and assorted minor new art such as emblems.

Magic and technology combine in a science fantasy setting. Against a backdrop of evil empires dominating known space and threatening a primitive world rich in magic, characters fight cyberslavery, animalistic warmachines, and other foes for justice, or merely to survive.

  • Rules are included for customizable armor, and incorporating magic gear into spacesuits, as well as a list of weapons and their functioning. Characters benefit from expanded use of technology related skills, and can make use of crafting rules for personal gear and all components of ships and vehicles.
  • For personal combat, over twenty new creatures are introduced, including cyborgs, Living Machines, and spacedwelling undead.
  • A revamped system for ship and vehicle combat and logistics allows for intuitive and effective ship configuration and operation, with a larger role for electronic warfare. This rules include tables with ship and vehicle classes, customization options, upgrades, equipment and weapons. NPC ships are included, both generic and factionspecific, as well as tables for customizing NPC ship crews. The ship and vehicle section includes optional rules for magic ship equipment.
  • The book includes four missions taking place in the setting, for characters around level six to ten. The missions come with eighteen color maps and one greyscale map.
  • The ebook comes with a printer-friendly version and a zipped file containing the maps as separate files, both the regular versions and printer-friendly versions.

A Note from the Author:
After spending so much time on this work, I decided I want as many people as possible to read and use it. Therefore this product is made available as a free ebbook. I still thank everyone who purchased the previous version for supporting me! If I feel that there is enough demand, I may work on a print version. —Benjamin Martinall

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This book by Space Potato Productions is 288 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page of editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages about the book, 2 pages ToC, 1 page blank inside the back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping 279 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

We kick off this setting's introduction with a flavor-text in character that gives us a brief (and surprisingly well-written) run-down of the setting: Essentially, it was not an AI that led to this dystopian future, but rather mankind's own potential for less than savory practices: In a vast war, a significant amount of planets was destroyed and made uninhabitable and now, the empires of Corinth and Kurion are at a stand-off -when Altair is discovered: A comparably primitive world, yes, but a populated one and one rife for the taking, one that dares stand up to those two entities. As you can glean from this introduction, the sci-fi setting as depicted herein is not particularly rosy, but it does have the makings of being potentially played in a more over the top space-opera style.

Now the first thing you'll notice from the introduction of the setting would be that both magic and technology exist -some of the worlds covered in the setting may actually be of your regular technology-level of fantasy worlds or pre-industrial revolution societies - the opening of portals and interstellar travel to those can of course result in massive changes in the way demographics react to ideas - as a catalyst for change and sheer unlimited potential for cultural clashes, the premise could be described as "Magic offsets technology's advantages in part" and "There is no prime directive". In the meanwhile, the darker empires out there are on the verge of decline, whereas the fractured empires of Altair have united under the Admiralty, and much like other human empires, crafted space ships to defend them, taking half-understood knowledge salvaged from wrecks etc. to do so. On the side of most important technological advances should stand the 3D-printing and CnC-advances, Plasma Thrusters and cold fusion reactors - while computers have hit a dead-end, with sufficiently powerful AIs and systems usually running afoul of a weird wave that hampers their processes - hence, human presence is still essential in warfare, though drones and the like are still used. Trans-planar communication is handled via satellites and asynchronous, for the information only manages the speed of light, so in Simmon's terms, information incurs quite a time debt. Travel between galaxies is undertaken via worm-holes in the (relative) proximity of the respective central stars. Surprisingly, only ships boarded by organic life seem to be able to make these instantaneous jumps - hence, the jumping is actually treated as a magical/psionic effect. So let's sum up the status quo - we have two evil empires, an emergent light in the Admirality, Hazioth (more on that later) and some potential, including hostile galaxies.

Okay, that essentially are the basics - after that, we're introduced to Altair, the first faction: Essentially a feudal, magical setting that has instantly been made aware of technology - hard sci-fi mixed with a backdrop of feudal fantasy. Much like the overall star-system map, we also get a map of one part of a planet and quite an array of fiction that goes into the peculiarities from this unique set-up, written in-character from various perspectives and covering thus some peculiarities - e.g. the problems of attacking undead with laser-guns. Each faction herein comes with nice in-character narratives, by the way!

The Corinthian Hegemony is a dystopian society where the rich and powerful have, via a tight control of education etc. - life-expectancy is 54 years (strangely for men and women), while only 10% truly hold power and live in comfort. The extremely militaristic hegemony has been radically changed from an almost satire-level over-indulgence in clichés of militaristic empires into an actually believable political entity with fitting education, social structure etc. - it is still an oppressive regime combining the worst aspects of elitism and communism, but the new depiction of the hegemony no longer paints the picture of a bland, pseudo-grimdark dystopia, instead creating a dystopia that makes sense in its mindless efficiency. Kudos to the author for vastly improving this particular component and the writing in this chapter - from a bad cliché to proper, believable antagonists, this section has went quite a long way!

Hazioth is the utopian equivalent to Corinth's Dystopia - loosely based on egalitarian values as practiced in our world, this faction is most earth-like and un-alien, also in its aesthetics - the faction represents mankind getting it mostly right, representing an ideological point quite akin to what we consider desirable. Where before, the faction was a bland way of saying "these guys are like us and the good guys", we now receive information on how magic etc. have influenced the life and how economy and all the rest work - more interestingly, the very existence of Hazioth is predicated on essentially being wedged in between a rock and a hard place - an attack by either hegemony or Kurions would leave the aggressor open for incursions of their adversaries, meaning that Hazioth, caught in an unofficial detente, has to carefully balance its own actions to maintain its existence. A *vast* step forward for the whole concept that renders the whole faction much more compelling and, once again, concise. Obvious logic-bugs have been destroyed and replaced with believable writing - kudos!

Speaking of evil empires: You thought the Corinthian Hegemony was despicable? Kurions use cybernetic implants to rule absolutely over a huge population of people, enforcing their will upon them - where the Corinthians are decadent, despicable despots, the Kurions are downright fascist bastards, complete with Running Man-like gladiatorial TV-programs and mass-deportations to refresh the ranks of their cyborgs. Environment is poisoned and ruined, military police is corrupt and overall, the living conditions are a total disaster. At least here, there are the seeds of organized rebellion in the making, futile and doomed though it may be. Now I still maintain, that ruling a dystopian empire with the carrot is easier than with the stick - why oppress and bury in violence when you can rule and be loved by the population? All dictators that are truly "successful" have learned to sway the masses in their favor - you can antagonize adversaries, but you need to establish a common enemy, a cultural identity, an ideology to enforce properly such a system - essentially a threat that justifies being a tyrant. That being said, somewhere between late Roman empire, fascism and the introduction of cyborg slaves and magic, I *can* now believe in the weave Benjamin Martinali weaves - while still not 100% as diversified as I would have imagined, the increased emphasis on entertainment to sedate the masses and decrease of emphasis on mind control does work in favor of the whole portrayal of the empire.

It should be noted that the miscellaneous minor players among the interstellar factions also receive excessive write-ups, with more details than before and 3 sample planets with detailed history etc. and a whole array of fully statted star systems with travelling speed, hazards etc. are provided, often including rather inspiring potential ideas for adventures.

The basics of the setting out of the way, we are introduced to 5 new feats related to e.g. starship piloting. Computer-Use and Crafting of various technological tools are also covered, as is piloting and repairing items. As a neat bonus, we also receive a rather nice, short rules primer for the effects of planets from 2G to 0G, allowing for more diversified combat mechanics. While I would have enjoyed rules that affect not only acrobatics and encumbrance, but also ref-saves, falling damage and movement, that is probably beyond the scope of this otherwise already massive book.

Speaking of items: Sealed suits and integrating magic items into them is covered as are powered armors -the rules to create these are awesomely customizable, with minor inconsistencies having been ironed out. It's cool that armor may have chameleon skin for invisibility-camouflage and even cooler that technology/magic discrepancy has been addressed - yes, spells affect tech and vice versa.

Energy weapons, sonic weapons etc. are also introduced - including their own restrictions. Whereas before, the science geek in me rebelled against some of the restrictions, the new take on weapon classes vastly increases their appeal - the presentation is not only more concise, it also can easily be described as more sensible, with all limitations adhering to logical behavior.

Burst Fire and auto-fire get their own rules, which once again have been streamlined into a better functioning new guise - that is more elegant to boot! Consider me thoroughly satisfied on that end, at least in the face of this book covering *A LOT* of ground.

Scanners, psionic receptacles (which can regenerate bullets, repair items, ships etc.) and similar items are introduced and rather cool. What about magic and technology? Well, there is an arcane technology school and a cleric domain (both of which violate standard formatting for lists like that - surprising to see such easily fixed glitches remain when the hard things to change and improve are done) and essentially, magic and technology can be freely combined - true strike sniper rifles? Yes, possible. Spells to highjack machines, clear viruses etc.? Covered. Punch others through the web via Punch by IP? Yes. While cool and catering to my sensibilities, these spells make for problematic laws - while dealing only non-lethal damage, how authorities deal with options like this would be VERY interesting. Oh, and I want to cast Summon Ferret Inside Enemy Spacesuit - yes, this spell exists herein. AWESOME. Speaking of awesome - while I'm not wholly sold on the blending of technology and magic, at least the book wholeheartedly embraces the potential: Cold lasers, bayonets that cause machines to flee, crystals that can be substituted for XP in crafting and even medical units and regenerating pods can be found herein. It should be mentioned that the XP-cost here is, of course, a remnant of 3.X's rulesets and thus pretty much obsolete in PFRPG, but in case you're playing 3.X, this item class should be considered a godsend.

Now what about creatures? The setting herein has Cyborgs -quite a bunch of them, and yes, they can be hacked, their control/torture-chips over-ridden. And yes, we get all the DCs as well as neat artworks for most of the cyborgs - from strange assassin-cyborgs to walking turrets and the Kurian nobles, we get quite a neat array herein. Have I mentioned the Cyborg Tyrannosaurus or the optional ability-upgrade Kurian nobles may get by entering a pact with a demon? Or the fact that the Kurian emperor's brain has been implanted into a gold dragon (yes, there's a template for that!). Living machines are essentially free-willed machines that developed a sentience and have since turned away from their erstwhile creators: Taking imagery from insects, fungi and similar designs, these machines feel distinctly alien, with e.g. the fungi being able to reactivate defeated machines and huge mechanical mantises acting as "living" siege weapons. Have I mentioned undead space pirates? Better yet, where before, here and there wonky rules-representations deviated from established rules-standards, now proper use is made of just about all of them - iconic and cool tricks by e.g. gigantic, intelligent mantis-shaped machines have been streamlined, making this whole chapter, over all, damn cool!

Now, we also get ship-to-ship combat rules - and they are actually rather good: Not using the basic vehicle-rules, though, they allow for multiple characters to act, with the pilot's skill adding to the AC each round, gunners shooting, electronic warfare etc. - a rather significant amount of options are available, though distances are mostly handled on a relative scale, not a simulationalist's scale. We also get a rather impressive array of quick-to-play rules here - mass warfare, Point-blank combat, planetside combat and combat as cruise speed - a surprising and more importantly, surprisingly easy to grasp array of options for proper ship-to ship combat that can keep more than one player engaged is presented here. Kudos! We also get a SIGNIFICANT array of generic ship classes including mass, hp, hd etc., including some planetside combat vehicles like hovertanks. Customization is also rather important -from shield generators, to increased speed, weaponry etc. to actual technology that can be further upgraded via magic, this chapter, if anything, could have been even longer for my tastes - it's by far the most fun and versatile of the chapters so far, even before introducing jammer missiles and all those delightful ship weapons. And yes, all of these components are expensive as sin, but come on - you KNOW you want to blast something to pieces with a friggin' fusion torpedo! IMines have been rolled into another chart, by the way. What's not an oversight, but a tinker's wet dream, would be the massive rules for creating your own ship - tables upon tables upon tables upon tables - easy to understand, expensive, but oh so rewarding. Of course, we also get sample crews and ships by the respective major player fractions, with e.g. Corinthian ships utilizing modules to change type and weaponry - cool idea and solid execution! Oh yes, and there are star- wraiths and pirate ships herein, too!

The next chapter deals with vehicle combat rules - These work mostly analogue to ship combat and include spider-mechs, hover limousines and the like - a rather large array of vehicles, but by far not that many exclusive customization options as the ships - comparatively to the excessive ship options, vehicles receive a relative short end of the stick, but then again, quite a few ship options can conceivably be applied to vehicles as well. Now personally, I would have enjoyed seeing vehicles being impacted more by high/low gravity, but that is admittedly a nitpick.

Chapter 5 then offers Missions, i.e. adventure-outlines, intended for characters between level 6 and 10 and providing basics as well as a general outline and maps. I'll only briefly glance over these, but still: Players should skip to the end of the SPOILERS.

Part II of my review is Post no.1 of the product discussion. Gift Certificates
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